Cultural Seasons

Every region has them. They are cultural touchstones that  happen around the same time every year and have no religious, scientific or civic relevance attached to them. If you are writing a regional-centric book (or series) you better know them by heart.

Here in the good old heartland of the upper Mississippi River Valley, we have several. Spring beckons Construction Season, Garage Sale Season, Fishing Opener, Cabin Season, and Gardening and planting time. Since our actual spring is so God-awfull short here, all of these seasons persist through the (usually) hot summer and into our equally truncated fall. Fall is the breather to get the harvest in and hit the last of the small town festivals (the ones that don’t celebrate cold and snow). Tourists and locals alike drive aimlessly along the back roads, oohing and ahhing at the pretty leaves.

Then, usually around Halloween, it gets cold. Temperature changes are almost never gradual here. We can easily have 40 degree differences in a matter of a few hours. When winter starts marching in, new seasons start.

First there’s Deer Season (technically it’s Hunting Rifle Deer Season, not to be confused with Bow Hunting Deer Season) in early to mid November. For nine days, blaze orange folks of all shapes, sizes, ages (over 12), genders, races, and political affiliates march through woods and fields looking for that bouncing white tail. It’s a time when those who don’t hunt know to pretty much stay indoors for the duration.

Deer Season trumps Thanksgiving, Football, and Black Friday in Wisconsin. Large brown carcasses hanging off of car roofs and out of truck boxes are a badge of respect and honor. A buck with a huge rack of antlers is especially impressive, despite the fact that the meat on it is so old and tough it’s relegated to stews and hamburger. “What’d ya get?”, “An eight-pointer.”, “Nice!”, “Yah.” That conversation will be repeated several thousand times during Deer Season.

After Deer Season, if there’s enough snow, you get Snowmobile Season. After Christmas, when the scientific winter is underway, Ice Fishing Season will start. For those of you in far off tropical realms, like New Zealand or San Diego, ice fishing is the act of sitting on a frozen lake, cutting a hole in the ice, and fishing. It’s like regular fishing without a boat. Most lakes up here will form a crust of ice around 3 feet thick. It’s thick enough to eventually drive a full size truck on and actually leave a small structure called a fish house behind for months at a time. If there’s not sufficient snow on the ground, people will snowmobile on the ice.

The coming of spring here is not heralded so much by flower buds and migrating birds as it is by the removal of the fish houses from the ice. That’s mid March. It can be 60 degrees or 10 degrees outside. The ground, which will be frozen at least 3 feet down, may or may not begin to thaw and expand from the release of frozen water, a phenomena called “the frost heaving.”Then the cycles of cultural seasons start all over again.

Cultural seasons, like the people who mark them, are steadfast and consistent. They persist through temperamental weather  patterns, shifting political climates, even disasters and wars. They mold who we are and where we come from. And they align us as a region like nothing else can. What are your cultural seasons? How do they affect you?

One Response to “Cultural Seasons”

  • Brenda Boe:

    Stray cat season. When being housebound with unwanted pets during the upcoming winter months causes people to dump off their cats and kittens at shelters, residential areas, and lonely country roads with one potential cat-loving home at the end.